There are petabytes of data scattered all across the blogs, eCommerce stores, business websites, and social media platforms. It all stands at your disposal to use it and make informed business decisions. The only obstacle between you and data is optimized HTTP headers, including common HTTP headers.
If you want the basics about optimizing your web scraping operation, you’ve found a perfect guide for you. Here is everything you need to know about web scraping and how HTTP headers can help you improve your efforts.
What is web scraping?
You’ve probably heard about some programs able to target specific data on websites, pull it, and record it on your cloud or local storage. The entire process is called web scraping, and it’s carried out by scraping bots. During the process, a bot, or often multiple bots, send requests to web servers, go to target websites, find the relevant information and download it.
You end up with the data you request, which you can use to fuel your business decision process, run competitive analytics, or get insights into current developments in your market. While we are at it, let’s see what the advantages of web scraping you can expect once you start utilizing these tools.
The advantages of web scraping
Here is what enables web scraping to offer many benefits to businesses:
- Versatility — you can have data scraped of almost all websites online;
- Speed — you get your data lightning-fast, and there is no manual copy/paste;
- Reliability — cutting-edge web scraping solutions are reliable to ensure the success of your operation;
- Affordability — web scraping is affordable so that even startups and small businesses can use it.
The main advantages of web scraping include the following:
- Market research — easily conduct market research and gather high quality and high volume of data for future decisions;
- Competitive pricing — get instant insight into your competitors’ pricing strategy to offer more attractive prices while still running a profitable operation;
- Monitor brands — monitor your or any other brand and learn what customers think and feel about the brand(s);
- Competitor analysis — with web scraping, you can monitor your main competitors effortlessly, discover what they post on social media, how they interact with customers, and monitor their other strategies;
- Background research — with web scraping, you can easily check the background of your potential business partners, future employees, and anyone else who plays a vital part in your business processes and supply chain.
How scraping efforts can be improved
Not all web scraping operations are the same. Some are more optimized and better than others. You can assuredly tell a good thing from the bad one. For instance, a thoroughly planned scraping operation has little to no downtime and avoids anti-scraping measures. Here are the most common ways to improve scraping.
Most of the successful scraping operations are run through a proxy server. And not just through any proxy but two specific types — residential and rotating proxy. Residential proxy assigns scraping bots real IP address to help them bypass anti-scraping measures and rotating changes IP address on random intervals to provide the same benefit.
Other techniques include using headless browsers and rotation between user agents. However, there is one more strategy that is often overlooked, but it can significantly improve your scraping efforts — HTTP headers.
How HTTP headers help
Both web servers and clients use HTTP headers to exchange important information with every HTTP request/response session. There are several types, and the most important one for scraping is the client-request header which can pass the following information to a server:
- The browser and OS you are using;
- Software version;
- Preferred language;
- What type of data you can handle and whether you want compressed data or not;
You can optimize HTTP client-request headers to run even better scraping operations. You can bypass even the most rigorous anti-scraping measures with carefully edited HTTP headers. For instance, you can:
- Use different user agents;
- Set accept-language, so it reflects your IP location
- Accept-encoding to minimize the load of traffic and improve the speed of your operation
- Use different HTTP header referer so that scraping traffic appears organic;
Common HTTP headers for scraping
Finally, each of these things you can do with HTTP headers is connected to a specific HTTP type. Each one of these types has a unique name and passes important information through the request to the target server. Here are the common HTTP headers for scraping:
- HTTP header User-Agent — application type, OS, software versions, which HTML layout to use in response;
- HTTP header Accept-Language — which language the client understands;
- HTTP header Accept-Encoding — whether to compress the data or not and which method to use;
- HTTP header Accept — the type of data that can be returned to the client;
- HTTP header Referer — the previous web page address of the client before the request was sent.
If you decide to put scraping to use, you should know that optimizing your operation is important. Optimizing common HTTP headers and using a proxy is vital for the success of your scraping operation. It will help you significantly reduce the risk of getting detected and bring you closer to your goals.